EPA announces intensified evaluation of spot-on pet treatments

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Back in December, our story, Pets and Pesticides: Let’s Be Careful Out There, reported that an alarming number of deaths had been linked to spot-on pesticide products for pets. This afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed there was cause for concern. The agency announced that it would intensify its evaluation of these products “due to recent increases in the number of reported incidents.”

What an intensified evaluation really means is left a bit unclear by the press release, and an agency spokesman could not be immediately reached for clarification. But in the past, the EPA has required additional warning language on products and even pulled some of them off shelves after noticing spikes in the number of reported incidents.

Spot-on products have been approved for sale by the EPA and are easily purchased at grocery stores, specialty pet retailers, and hardware stores. But they are also linked to thousands of reported pet poisonings — especially those containing pyrethroids, a class of synthetic neurotoxins. From 2003 through the beginning of 2008, the EPA received a total of more than 25,000 reports of pet reactions of every sort — fatal, major, moderate, and minor — to over-the-counter pyrethroid-based spot on products. The agency received reports of at least 1,600 pet deaths during that same time period tied to these products.

In today’s announcement the EPA encouraged consumers who decide to use spot-on anti-flea-and-tick products to take precautions by following the directions printed on the product and monitoring their pets for signs of adverse reactions — seizures, lack of appetite, and peeling and blistering skin among them. Consumers “may” want to contact their veterinarians before using these chemicals as well, according to the agency.

The EPA noted that pet shampoos, sprays, and collars can also cause adverse reactions, but the majority of incidents reported to the EPA involving pets and pesticides are related to spot-on treatments. The Center published similar findings in December.

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